Friday, June 02, 2006

flipping over a flop of a flip-flop

Several folks on both sides of the political divide are a bit excited this week about the reported (or under-reported, depending on how you see it) flip-flop of President George W. Bush regarding direct talks with the government of Iran. As is generally reported, after five years of pursuing a policy of isolation, the Bush Administration has now suddenly opted for engagement.

I have a lot of thoughts about this, one of them is, “I’ll believe it when I see it,” but before I get to that, let’s talk about what a “flip-flop” really is. To my mind, there are two very different things that can be called flip-flops, one good and one bad, and neither are well served by the term.

On the good side, is it not possible that some people just learn new things and change their minds? Being curious, adapting, taking new information into account, growing—are these not desirable traits all? Being smart enough to learn and strong enough to grow while under public scrutiny are, I would argue, two of the most important qualities for sound leadership. Flip-flop’s negative connotations not only do these qualities a great disservice, the accusation of “flip-flopping” usually overshadows any debate on the actual issues and opinions that got flipped.

On the other hand, saying one thing and then doing another, which is often called a flip-flop, is, quite plainly, nothing short of lying. Stating “A” and doing the opposite of “A” isn’t a change of heart, it’s deception. Calling this a flip-flop is letting the flip-flopper—or, rather, the liar—off much too easily.

So, where does this leave us when it comes to Bush’s supposed shift on talks with Iran? I think you know where I’m going with this, but I’ll make it explicit in my next post.

Update: Well, my “next post” grew a bit over the weekend, so you can find the rest of my thoughts on the flip that flopped over at capitoilette.


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